Food & Drink

Rutiz Family Farms is rooted in Arroyo Grande

Produce currently in season at Rutiz Family Farms in Arroyo Grande includes leeks, romano beans and baby broccoli.
Produce currently in season at Rutiz Family Farms in Arroyo Grande includes leeks, romano beans and baby broccoli.

Rutiz Family Farms has been growing quality produce and flowers since 1981. For the past 13 years, the farm and its retail stand have been rooted alongside The Pike in Arroyo Grande.

Though the 28-acre parcel isn’t certified organic, Jerry Rutiz emphasized that only organic and sustainable practices are employed throughout the operation. The fields are fertilized with organic materials, and there are no pesticides or genetically modified organisms used.

Most of the farm’s produce is sold locally at the farm stand, in weekly harvest boxes or to restaurants such as Ember in Arroyo Grande and Big Sky Cafe and the Apple Farm Restaurant and Bakery in San Luis Obispo.

In addition, Rutiz makes the trip to the popular Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesdays. Through that outlet, Rutiz Family Farms sells to marketgoers and about 30 West Los Angeles restaurants, including such well-regarded spots as AOC, Lucques and Spago.

Currently, the Arroyo Grande farm stand is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

In addition to all the bounty from Rutiz Family Farms, you’ll also find seasonal vegetable starts for home gardens and fruits and veggies from other select local growers. Among them are Pepper Creek Family Farms in the Huasna Valley, Cirone Farms in See Canyon, Bautista Farms in Arroyo Grande and Chadmark Farms in Paso Robles.

Local bakeries get into the act as well. Depending on the day, you can buy breads, sweet treats and other goodies from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gluten, Little Red Hen Bread and Sweet Pea Bakery in Arroyo Grande.

Throughout the year, some 50 different crops will be harvested from Rutiz Family Farms. Among the produce items currently in peak season are fennel, leeks, romano beans, Bloomsdale spinach and baby broccoli.

“A lot of people have heard of fennel,” Rutiz said, “but they don’t know what to do with the fennel bulb.”

Often used in Italian cuisine, fennel is part of the carrot family and has a mild anise, or, licorice, flavor. All of the plant is edible, and the bulb may be eaten raw or cooked.

“Chop the bulb very finely and put it raw into a salad,” Rutiz said, “or you can treat it like an onion and stir fry or sauté it. It will cook down and be very mild in flavor.” He added that roasting slices of the bulb with garlic and parmesan is another tasty option.

Leeks inspire a similar dilemma. People know what they are, and that they’re related to onions and garlic, but are often puzzled anouy how to use them. Rutiz recommends simply roasting or grilling them.

“For the smaller ones, cut off the bottom and tops, wrap them in foil with a little salt and pepper and some vinaigrette, and toss them on the grill,” he said. “You can do the same with the larger leeks, just cut them in half lengthwise first.”

Romano beans, a flat pole bean, are akin to the familiar Blue Lake green beans, but Rutiz finds the romanos more flavorful. However, he noted that romanos are more fibrous so they do need to be cooked rather than eaten raw.

“You’ll also need to steam them a little longer than you would a Blue Lake,” Rutiz said.

As for Bloomsdale spinach, Rutiz prefers it to other varieties because of its sweet flavor and thick leaves, which hold up better when cooking. He suggest treating Bloomsdale spinach as you would any spinach.

Baby broccoli is much more tender than the all-grown-up version. In addition, because it doesn’t have thick stalks, there’s less food waste. (One good way to use broccoli stalks is to peel them, cut them into coins and use them in an Asian stir fry to mimic water chestnut.)

There’s always something tasty awaiting you at Rutiz Family Farms, so pay them a visit and see what they’ve got coming down the pike.

Rutiz Family Farms

1075 The Pike, Arroyo Grande

Retail stand hours: Tuesday and Friday 12-6 p.m., Saturday 12-4 p.m.; November-March, Tuesday and Friday 12-5 p.m.; April through October.